Home to… fruit flies?

As the weather has been getting warmer, I’ve wanted some fresh air in the apartment, so during the day, I’ve been leaving the windows in the bathroom and kitchen open. While it’s been nice to have air coming in that is not just from our air conditioner, unfortunately, this has resulted in fruit flies coming into the apartment… and likely laying eggs and having babies spawn. I’d kill one or two, thinking my job was done. But no: there were more, and smaller ones randomly showing up in the bedroom, kitchen, and living area. They were definitely procreating, and this was not a good sign. I immediately looked up home remedies for this and found that the easiest ones for us would be to create apple cider-sugar-soap baths in shallow cups and bowls, place them in each room, and wait for the scent of the apple cider vinegar to attract them. Then, they’d dip themselves in for a drink, and BAM! They’d drown to death. I prepared these and laid out six bowls across the apartment. The next option is to leave a little bit of wine in the bottom of a wine bottle and let them come in, drink, and also drown. We haven’t opened a bottle of wine yet this week, but intend to do so, not just to enjoy, but also to commit fruit fly genocide on these little twits.

Opening the windows in our apartment: good in theory, bad in practice.

Mangoes galore

During our trip out to Jackson Heights, Queens, yesterday, we also picked up a few more mini Ataulfo mangoes from an Indian grocery store. While Haitian mangoes were being sold, we decided we didn’t like them as much since they were more stringy and tart than the Ataulfo ones, so we passed on those. If you can believe it, we got six mini Ataulfo mangoes for just $2 – that’s crazy cheap! They were on the ripe side, though, so I immediately had to cut them all today, resulting in six plus two of the regular sized Ataulfo mangoes I got during the mango sale at Whole Foods. This apartment is just swimming in mangoes. I’m looking for different desserts to use them in so that we don’t end up having to eat four whole ones each per day. No-churn mango ice cream looks like a good and easy option that I’ll test out this week.

Jackson Heights trip

Today, we ventured out of Manhattan for the first time since quarantine began in early March. We took the train to Jackson Heights, Queens, and loaded up on delicious, cheap groceries and produce from a couple of Indian/Pakistani markets, picked up a box of Indian sweets, stopped by a Colombian bakery and bought some pan de bono (cheese bread), and attempted (but failed) to eat at one of the outside dining tables of our favorite dosa place. They had only two tables available, and they had a steady stream of people trying to eat there. Plus, the service looked quite slow. All of the outdoor tables and chairs that are normally outside the train station were gone, likely because of COVID-19, and so we ended up having to go back to Manhattan to find a spot for outdoor dining. It was still good to leave the borough and see life elsewhere, though. I miss the hustle and bustle of wandering around neighborhoods in Queens. I also miss the variety of produce and spices, the diversity of the clientele, plus the cheap prices.

I perked up for a bit, especially when I saw a sign for Pakistani mangoes at one of the markets. Unfortunately, a worker said that they wouldn’t be getting their delivery from Pakistan until next week, so we came just a week too early. I purchased some Haitian mangoes from a street vendor here on the Upper West Side this past week, and unfortunately, they just weren’t as sweet or delicious as the Ataulfo mangoes we normally get. Plus, they were quite stringy, which I strongly dislike.

Small batch fudge brownies

I’ve made banana bread twice during shelter-in-place the last four months: vegan buckwheat banana bread and sourdough walnut banana bread. The problem, though, is that although we enjoyed both, it was just too much for the two of us. We cannot share with friends, neighbors, or colleagues given everyone is under lockdown, and sharing food may be questionable despite evidence showing that food is not a common way to spread the virus. So we end up having to eat everything, and everything, even the most delicious things, have diminishing marginal utility. The bites just get worse the more you eat them.

So I was intrigued when one of the food blogs I follow posted a recipe for small batch fudge brownies. While brownies are typically baked in an 8 inch-by-8-inch pan, that’s… quite a large number of brownies, and can be quite tiresome to eat between two people. This blogger created a fudge brownie using 80 grams of dark chocolate in a loaf pan, so about half the size as usual. I immediately jumped on the idea, especially after I found exactly 80 grams of 75 percent chocolate in our fridge remaining from our Colombia trip last May. This would be a delicious way to finally use the last Colombian chocolate we brought back from that delicious trip.

The brownies came together quite quickly and baked in just 15 minutes. After allowing them to cool, I admired their shiny, glossy sheen. I took a bite and WOW — this is dark fudgey chocolate brownies at their darkest and fudgiest. I had Chris try one, and he was… a bit blown away by the intensity of the chocolate. I mean, it IS 75 percent cacao from Colombia, and that is all the chocolate that is in there — no fillers, no fluff.

It seems like a cocoa-powder brownie might be better for my chocolate and brownie loving husband — a little less intense but still chocolatey.

Spice junkie

I am a total spice junkie. It’s a good thing in that I like to experiment and try out different spices and flavors. It’s a bad thing in that once you have so many spices, you forget about some and then they can get stale. One of the first things I did when we moved into this apartment was install spice liners for my spice drawer in our kitchen. I knew it would not be big enough to hold ALL my spices, so I also designated part of one of the fridge drawers for spices, particularly for ones that may be more likely to go off. It’s gotten quite unwieldy, and it still gets quite messy since I can’t always keep track of what I have in the drawer, so I still need to find a better way to organize it.

While digging in the pantry, though, I stumbled upon the rose bird buds I bought a while back to make a pistachio-almond-cardamom rose birthday cake for Chris’s mom when she was in town one year. I never actually used the rose buds for anything other than that cake, and after smelling them, I realized that they were still quite fragrant. So I made a rose sugar syrup out of them using 1 cup sugar to 1 cup water, and then half a cup of packed rose buds. I boiled the sugar and water, added the rose buds, simmered for ten minutes, then allowed to cool. Then, I strained the rose buds out and emptied the rose syrup into a glass jar. I added about two tablespoons into a cup with two squeezed lemons, a handful of ice, and some sparkling water to make rose lemonade — floraly, refreshing, and delicious. This syrup could easily go well with coffee, tea, cocktails, and other similar beverages.

Spices have a longer shelf life than we think; we just need to implement the smell test on them before using them.

Kesar mango

While in the Curry Hill area of Murray Hill this past Saturday, we stopped by an Indian grocery store and picked up some Indian sweets. I inquired about the sign we saw outside the store advertising Indian mangoes, and the shop keeper said he did not have Alphonso mangoes, the most famous Indian mango, but he did have kesar mangoes. We already had quite a number of Ataulfo mangoes at home, so I didn’t really feel compelled to buy the kesar mangoes, which were $4 each. But after our purchase, the shop owner gave us one kesar mango as a gift. I was really excited by this and could not wait to try it out.

I actually filmed the mango tasting today, and it’s quite a peculiar mango: it’s more round in shape than the Ataulfo mango, and this particular one had a more pale yellow skin color. but once you cut it open, it reveals a more orangey color flesh. And THEN, once you cut into it and eat it, the flesh is juicier than the Ataulfo, which is more firm and velvety. The kesar mango bursts with juice, is not even the slightest bit fibrous. And when you bite into it, it’s extremely complex: citrusy, like an orange or tangerine, but then also rich and a little creamy like an Ataulfo, with hints of pineapple and and maybe even peach. Complex and juicy are the most accurate ways I can sum up the kesar mango flavor.

This taste only made me more wistful for travel to South Asia. Sadly enough, today we were originally scheduled to leave for Sri Lanka and Kerala in Southern India, and now all those plans have been cancelled because of COVID-19. This is even more depressing to eat this mango on this day.

Cooking

On our last family chat, Chris’s mom said that she’s been seeing all my Instagram posts and stories about what I’ve been tinkering around with in the kitchen, and it all looks really exciting. The sad part about that is that while I am enjoying having more time to cook and experiment on recipes I’ve long wanted to test out, I really have nothing else to do other than cook, create videos, read, and listen to podcasts now outside of work. As much as I look forward to trying out a new recipe, such as today’s spinach and avocado theplas, the more I realize that this is all I have to look forward to since we can’t travel anywhere anytime soon. Cooking and food are all I really have right now.

Beautiful uterus

I went to see my doctor today because for the last three months, I’ve been having really painful periods. Occasionally here and there over the years, I’ve had cramps on the day of my period, but the last three months have seemed a lot more intense on the first day. It’s so bad that if I don’t have a heating pad on my stomach that I can’t really concentrate on anything. I did some quick Google searches on it, and it seemed to vary with age; some women get more painful periods as they get older, while others have less painful cramps. I asked my doctor last week, and she suggested I come in to check it out.

After discussing the general feelings and symptoms, she suggested she perform an ultrasound. So she took a look inside my uterus for any strange growths, fibroids, or cysts. She found nothing. Instead, she marveled over my uterus and exclaimed, “what a beautiful uterus! It’s so attractive! Everything is so perfectly shaped!”

I have a beautiful uterus, huh? Well, there’s a compliment I never thought I’d receive.

When it doesn’t taste like home

On Friday, I went down to Chinatown to do some grocery shopping and pick up some baked goods from local bakeries I wanted to try out and support. While I picked up many goodies and things that we enjoyed, I was still a little disappointed in the cha siu bao, or Chinese baked barbecue pork buns I purchased from the locally loved Mei Li Wah Bakery on Bayard Street. Everyone I know in New York who has a cha siu bao recommendation always recommends Mei Li Wah as the best bakery to go to, yet in the handful of times I’ve gotten these there, I’ve never quite been satisfied with them. They’re a little too much on the sweet side for me, and the cha siu, or barbecued pork that is used, tends to be more fatty rather than meaty. I still have yet to try a cha siu bao in New York that comes close to the ones that my parents would buy from a very specific bakery in Oakland Chinatown that they’d occasionally go to when visiting the East Bay.

Even though I’ve lived in New York for about 12 years now, I still haven’t found reliable spots for cha siu bao, zongzi (Chinese rice tamales), or Cantonese-style crab or lobster at a reasonable price. Those are still the things I tend to get and eat when I am back home in San Francisco. It just doesn’t taste like home here for these specific items, sadly.

Aunt Jemima is finally denounced

I’ve never enjoyed fake pancake syrups. In this country, they are primarily made of high fructose corn syrup, which is probably one of the unhealthiest things you can consume, a sign that America is too cheap to spend money on real cane sugar, but would rather stuff American bodies with fake sugar to lead them to an earlier death. Aunt Jemima was problematic for me as I started learning more about American history and realized that the face on the bottle of Aunt Jemima pancake syrup was a caricature of the “black mammy” archetype, a black female stereotype of the American South who worked as a slave in the home of white families and nursed white babies. The bottle, the brand, the company, were all racist symbols that were being embraced here in the U.S., long, long after slavery had ended. It was sad to constantly see this in grocery stores and even in my own family’s kitchen.

When I worked at a digital marketing agency years ago, I was asked to work on the Aunt Jemima search engine marketing campaign. I looked at my manager and said I didn’t feel comfortable working on a campaign that promoted a racist brand. She gave me a funny look, said it was “just business,” but respected my wishes and reassigned it to another colleague. Unfortunately, race is part of everything, and no, to this day, I do not believe it is “just business.”

This week, we’ve learned that finally Pepsi Co., which owns Aunt Jemima under Quaker Oats, is now finally waking up to the fact that their caricature is racist and has announced they are removing the caricature from the brand and doing a full rebranding “to make progress toward racial equality.”

Ummmmmmm……

LATE MUCH???????

It took decades upon decades of systemic racism, black lives being shot and killed with no one to be held accountable, and finally the recent murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, for this brand to wake up? It’s so convenient, isn’t it, for brands to act all faux “woke” with their performative allyship, as long as it helps their bottom line… to make more money, to profit off of their faux progressiveness.

It’s infuriating.